Build & test a million+ 💲 ARR acquisition funnel in 9 weeks


I’ve taken a dozen startups from $0 to $2MM+ in ARR, mentored more than 200 startups and taught thousands. Here’s how I teach building a battle-tested and ready to go acquisition funnel in as little as 9 weeks that will scale from $0 to millions.

Note that it’ll take more than 9 weeks to scale up to $1MM+. But the funnel you build here is the foundation that will get you there.

The Grow to Market process in brief

Grow to market in the CrowdTamers fashion is a 3-stage process.

  1. Validate messaging and audience
  2. Build & normalize revenue channels
  3. Scale & perform

We’re gonna be talking about Step 1 here: Validate messaging and audience. We’re building that funnel and stress-testing it today. 9 weeks from today, for less than $4,600, you could be ready to launch your next startup with proof that it works.

Each week, you’ll want to run a round of experiments that will teach you something critical about your business. For Twitter abbreviation, I’m gonna call each of the an Experiment Round (ER). Here’s all 9 of them.

The funnel build & test:

🧪 Experiment Round (ER) 1 – Persona differentiation – $600 budget👉 Who most wants this app – basic demographic targeting on FB & Twitter🧠 What we should learn – What our best persona tends to look like

👆 You need to know who you sell to so start by pointing your ads at different groups of people who you think are likely to care:

🧪 ER2 – Persona differentiation 2 – $400 budget👉Further tests on persona, geography on FB & Twitter. Possible tests on LinkedIn🧠 What we should learn – Build 1 – 3 ideal customers.

👆 Geography can make a big difference in CPA. Not just at a country level, but even at state & city. If you have a strong industry focus, find the best cities to advertise in and see if that improves CPA

🧪 ER3 – Key feature differentiation – $600 budget👉 What does the market want to see from this app? Basic tests on Twitter & FB🧠 What we should learn: Key USP for your product

👆 This step starts with execution as I outlined here: You’ve got to have a landing page (or a few) before you can do it. Go follow those steps before you try and tackle ER3.

🧪 ER4 – Key feature differentiation 2 – $400 budget👉 Refining language for the key features on Twitter & FB🧠 What we should learn: Language & key buzzwords that are most responsive

👆 This is an edit of ER3; you should have some idea what was working after ER1; put some work into refining it here.

🧪 ER5 – Positioning – FB & Twitter, $400👉 Look & feel; what visuals are most performative for potential leads on display ads🧠 What we should learn: Visual identity that drives top of funnel clicks.

👆 When you talk about “Branding” most folks think “visuals”. There’s a reason that I’m tackling this in ER5 and not before. Check out the excellent Obviously Awesome by @aprildunford, or read my take at:

🧪 ER6 – Positioning 2 – Google Search, $600👉 Messaging & Intent – Driving traffic via Google Search; what keywords are performative? 🧠 What we should learn – What channels are the best place to demonstrate our value?

👆 Google keyword research is a huge resource of data on what people are actually looking for on the Internet. You can do a lot with the keyword planner tool, or a high-quality SEM tool like @semrush, but nothing compares to actually buying clicks & seeing outcomes.

🧪 ER7 – Positioning 3 – $800 budget👉Competitive tests of FB, Twitter, LI, and Google search: which channels are driving the best leads, cheapest?🧠 What we should learn – Estimated 1st CAC

👆 This is the big spend of the whole project. By now you should have honed your messaging & found the best targeting to maximize your cost per click. Run head-to-head tests of different channels to see which delivers the highest ROI.

🧪 ER8 – Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO) – 1 channel, $400👉What do we need to improve on our landing page? Test 3 different landing pages to track CPA.🧠 What we should learn – What makes a page convert. The best page here should be >33% better CPA than ER7.

👆 Bottom of the funnel optimization is crucial; once you’re focusing on that, you’ll quickly find easy wins that make big differences. Don’t settle for minor improvements from your first tests; iterate 2 or 3 times around on this ER if you must.

🧪 ER9 – CRO 2 – 1 channel, $400👉Iteration & improvement; building a final sensible model for CPA🧠 What we should learn – “True to life” CPA; the number we develop here should be +/- 30% of the actual product CPA

👆 True to life CPA for a paying customer is almost impossible to predict, but a well-modeled funnel up to this point will end up converting to something like at least 30% as well as this funnel you’ve built. Maybe better!

This is a lot of work, but at the end of all of this, you’ll have: 👉 Core messaging👉 Target Audience👉 Visuals👉 Rough cost per acquired leadWhich should be enough to take your startup idea to the next level.

For less than $5k, you can know with pretty high confidence if your next idea is gonna work or not. That’s a bargain, since it can save you hundreds or thousands of hours chasing ideas that will never work.

This has worked for me a half dozen times; I’ve iterated into it across a dozen startups over the last decade & if you stick with it, learn what the data has to tell you, and move quickly, you’ll build a funnel that can scale your SaaS startup to $1MM ARR or beyond, all based on the lessons you learned in this humble little exercise. 🙂

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  1. I just found this via Indiehackers. Will this work for developer focused SaaS products as well?

    1. Yes, although there are a lot of other approaches you can add into it as per our call today. Good luck with GreenDeploy!

  2. Hi Trevor,
    Thanks for all the amazing content you’ve put out and knowledge you’ve shared. I discovered you via your AMA on Indiehacker. Will you be doing Step 2 on the blog? Build & normalize revenue channels.

    1. Hey, Jen!

      Yes–eventually. I’m working on a book that’s about phase 1 right now. Once that’s finished I’ll work on the book about Phase 2 and I’ll definitely have lots of blog posts about that part of the business then. 🙂

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